By Jim Duke
As we head into the final month of snowmobile season, a few things are happening in and around Washington, D.C. and the Capitol that have nothing, or very little, to do with the election snafu or who will eventually occupy the White House. Most of the information in this article comes from the national group in that city known as Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA).
Interested readers may recall in late December the discussions and sometimes intense deliberations over the COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill and what, if any, appropriations might be available should it ever reach the floor and be approved. Well, that did finally happen, and Congress passed House Bill 133 as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a $2.3 trillion comprehensive package. Within that tidy little package are 12 appropriations bills that will fund the government through fiscal year 2021 to the tune of $1.4 trillion and a $900 billion tag-on for COVID-19 response and relief.
So, what does all this have to do with our recreational status? Well, a provision included in the bill provides a one-year extension of the two-wheel, plug-in Electric Vehicle Credit and allows a 10% tax credit on the purchase price of a new electric motorcycle, up to a maximum of $2,500. This tax credit includes dual-use plug-in motorcycles that can be licensed for road and highway use but also can be used for off-road recreational use.
Another interesting and noteworthy happening was the nomination of Deb Haaland for the post of Secretary of the Interior by President Joe Biden. What makes this so interesting is that Democrat Haaland is a first-term U.S. representative from New Mexico. Although she recently served as chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States (a subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands of the House Committee on National Resources), she has little other qualifications. If she is confirmed, she becomes the first Native American person to hold a cabinet position in history.
Although not an issue particular to our own great state but of overall interest to the off-road vehicle community is the Moon Rocks OHV (Off-Highway Vehicles) Development and Maintenance Grant out West. It doesn’t involve rocks from the moon; that’s the name given to a proposed project by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Carson City District in Nevada. In the proposal, due to increased visitation to the site, the project addresses public health and safety-related concerns within the designated OHV open area as well as the main access roads by implementing needed improvements and to more efficiently manage environmental impacts caused by the user visit increases. The public comment period has already concluded, but no results have been released yet.
Finally, as some states begin to reopen from COVID-19 restrictions, they increase recreational access to roads and trails, but also to amenities such as restrooms, camping and picnic areas, and wilderness attractions. It is important to note that the COVID-19 pandemic has not gone away or even been noticeably reduced, and trail sponsors must continue to monitor how it may affect each given area. In doing so, it’s equally important to work with local, state and federal authorities and use a phased approach in opening trails and access to public lands.
We have been held to varying degrees of restriction or isolation for almost a year now, from what was first understood to be just a couple of weeks! Many businesses have succumbed to the hardships and have been unable to recover. Many others are still barely holding on in hope this will soon turnaround and we can resume some sort of normalcy. Let’s all work toward that goal.